We use cookies. You have options. Cookies help us keep the site running smoothly and inform some of our advertising, but if you’d like to make adjustments, you can visit our Cookie Notice page for more information.
We’d like to use cookies on your device. Cookies help us keep the site running smoothly and inform some of our advertising, but how we use them is entirely up to you. Accept our recommended settings or customise them to your wishes.

Navigating the 2020 Presidential Election: The Digital Battleground

Digital political ad spend will cross the $1 billion mark for this election cycle, according to eMarketer. Social platforms that accept political advertisers will be major beneficiaries of this spend, so marketers must prepare for increased competition and costs leading up to election day on November 3, 2020.

Right now, there are three major areas for marketers to keep an eye on as the election quickly approaches: the platforms that ads are appearing on, monitoring brand ad spend, and ensuring brand safety.


While TV will receive the highest share of political advertising spend across all mediums at 66%, digital ad spend will be focused on two key platforms – Facebook and Google. Nearly 60% of digital political ad spend will go to Facebook, with Donald J. Trump for President and Biden for President currently among Facebook’s top advertisers. In an attempt to appease critics, Facebook announced some minor limitations on political ads in the week leading up to election day.

The second-largest platform for political ad spending is Google at 18.2%. While eMarketer’s report does not breakdown spend by Google property, it is expected that the bulk of political ad spend will go to YouTube where political campaigns can extend the reach of the TV ad spots.

Ad Spend

Brands with localized strategies in battleground states should closely monitor budgets and should be prepared to act quickly by adjusting campaigns as noise and costs increase in key digital channels. The Cook Political Report lists Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin as toss-up states for the 2020 election. Even at a national level, in today’s climate, brands need to be prepared to weather whatever storm appears.

We are officially in the thick of the political ad spend ramp-up. Historically, 67% of political spending comes between the general election window opening in September through the election in November, and 30% of all political spending takes place in the last three weeks leading up to the election. That means that the heaviest competition will continue through November 3, and political noise could even occur after the election as votes are counted and a decision is made. 

Brand Safety

In addition to considering where ad inventory will be more limited and expensive, as a marketer you must ensure the proper brand safety measures are being taken so your brand’s ads do not appear next to hot-button political content or fake news. For example, within Facebook, it is recommended to turn-off right rail desktop ad units. Consumer sentiment about brand involvement during the election is wavering, and brands need to be careful of negative online spaces that may make them vulnerable to criticism.

Additionally, Pinterest announced it joined GARM, which was unveiled by the World Federation of Advertisers last year at the Cannes Lions Festival, as a resource for marketers who express concerns around brand safety on social media. As election season is in full swing, social platforms are beginning to monitor and vet user-generated content more closely. Are marketers doing the same with their placements?

For more on the elections and other key considerations, check out our Q4 Media Strategy Report here.